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Close enough not good enough for NSW

NSW was brave, tough and courageous ... but we still lost.

I certainly don't want to bag or take pot shots at the Blues after such an epic match on Wednesday night in Brisbane.

However for all their efforts and for all the work the players and Ricky Stuart have thrown into this series, we have come up empty. Again. Essentially, we are no better off than when we lost our first series in this streak back in 2006.

Stuart did a wonderful job reclaiming that lost Origin passion in NSW. But like Graham Murray and Craig Bellamy before him, Ricky will walk away without any rewards, accolades and without the interstate shield. The Blues jumped out to the perfect start and led 8-0. Everyone kept saying we needed a great start but Origin games aren't won early - they are won late, as Queensland showed us once again.

During this seven-year nightmare, NSW has lost four deciders.

Courage and commitment aren’t just words tossed around, they mean plenty in Origin and both kept us in the game, and along with a couple of great Robbie Farah kicks enabled us to draw level at 20-all.

But did any NSW fan have any real confidence we were going to win?

That late try to Josh Morris and sideline conversion from Todd Carney only gave us false hope. Before I move on, let me pause and praise the Morris brothers. How good were they?

That was a stunning jump from Josh to score that late try and what about his trysaving tackle on a runaway Greg Inglis earlier in the second half?

They were the efforts of a player who deserved to be on the winning side.

There was a four-minute period in the first half that decided the result and it began to unfold in the 31st minute when NSW halfback Mitchell Pearce missed a one-on-one tackle on Johnathan Thurston. The Maroons started that set pinned on their own line jammed in the corner after a good kick and chase which saw Hayne tackle Darius Boyd exactly where you want to give the ball to the opposition.

On the fourth tackle they were still inside their own 20-metre area. Cronk and Thurston then combined through a second man play to break open the Blues, and that was one of the big differences in the two sides. Queensland were willing to use the ball out of their own end while NSW were bunched and laboured with one out stuff.

Thurston scores on the next play and from the ensuing kick off we put it out on the full and give Queensland another great opportunity which they take. Hodges try at the 35-minute mark completed a disastrous period that saw the Maroons go to the break scoring 16 unanswered points - 12 in those game defining four minutes.

We never really looked like winning from there.

While I’m on the Hodges try, it wasn’t. You can’t run behind your own player. Beau Scott mightn’t have been inconvenienced because there was some depth between Hannant and Hodges, but Todd Carney was - he’d moved up to cover the pass from Hodges which should’ve been his only option once he’d crossed behind his decoy and that was the hole taken by the man with the ball. It was a bad call, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Maroons were the better side.

I guess the major question now will be whether Stuart continues to coach NSW or returns to the NRL. The rumours are flying of interest from Canberra, the Dragons and the Sydney Roosters. Aside from possibly having to find a new coach, we shouldn't forget NSW head to Suncorp Stadium for two games next season. It doesn't get any easier.

The core of this Queensland side is in their late 20s so still have three, maybe four, years left. There is no doubt Queensland can win 10 consecutive series.

I thought NSW was tenacious on Wednesday night. They battled hard, fought back and nearly pulled it off. But 'nearly' pulling it off isn't good enough. The bottom line is we lost - for the seventh straight year.

We have once again been left gutted.

******

I CAN'T help but think it's curtains for St George Illawarra after Monday night's late loss to Canberra at Canberra Stadium.

Finals footy now looks beyond them. The Dragons started the season in such a positive fashion - winning five of their opening eight games. But the Saints just can't seem to find their groove and scoring tries, which has been their Achilles heel on and off over the past few seasons, is a real issue. This weekend’s bye comes at a good time, keeping them in touch with the top eight. They then come home with four games at home and four away. The fact they’ve only managed one win on the road is another cross against the Red V.

The injury to Michael Weyman in round 10 and his unavailability for the remainder of the season also makes their task that much more difficult. There is no doubt the club has an ageing roster and will have to make some pretty tough decisions very soon.

Sometimes clubs hang on to players who have given them success for that season too long - it is a real trap. Coach Steve Price is under pressure and I feel for him somewhat. He is still a rookie coach. It was always going to be a tough gig coming into a club with an old roster and after super coach Wayne Bennett.

NSW forward Beau Scott only added to the problems when he announced mid-season he would follow Bennett to the Knights. St George Illawarra seem to have been inactive in the player market for a while now and that has to change ASAP.

Price has to be strong and clean out his roster - otherwise he could in fact be the one leaving.

*****

THEY may be at different ends of the Telstra Premiership ladder but I am looking forward to Sunday's match between old foes Manly and Parramatta at Brookvale Oval.

Anyone around during the 1980s will remember the intense rivalry that existed between these two famous Sydney teams. The confronted each other in the 1982 and 1983 grand finals - the Eels claiming both under legendary coach Jack Gibson.

This year though Parramatta is nowhere near a title, and things become tougher with the injury late in the Origin decider to Jarryd Hayne. But Parra love playing Manly - the Eels scoring an upset win in their first battle at Parramatta Stadium. Manly look like being close to full strength but I still think the Eels will be more than competitive.

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